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School Choice Gets the House’s Back Door Treatment

Thursday, April 22, 2021 – Budget Day in the Texas House of Representatives

Near 5:00 PM, Rep. Herrero introduced Amendment 84 with Rep. Huberty standing close behind him. He thanked “Dr. VanDeaver and all those that support public education…..Stand with our public school teachers.”

The amendment reads, “Prohibition on Use of Appropriated Money for School Choice Programs. Money appropriated by this Act may not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, education savings account, or tax credit scholarship program or similar program through which a child may use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education.

Rep. Steve Toth, whose district is in Montgomery County near Houston, spoke against the amendment, saying,

“Members, not all of us have choice. I have choice. If I lived in a district that didn’t adequately and effectively provide a good education to my child, I have choice, I can move to a different district. Parents desire choice. Parents desire to make that decision as to whether or not the educational experience their child is receiving is effective or not. Every parent deserves that choice.

This is a poll that was done by the Mason-Dixon Polling Strategy Company. It’s a nonpartisan organization.  They do polling for Republicans, Democrats, on all sorts of different issues. I’m kind of a polling nerd. I used to work for the Harris poll.

They went out to 625 registered Texas voters, margin of error of plus or minus 4%, with a 95% probability rate. And here’s what it says,

If you live in East Texas, 79% of Texans desire parental choice.

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 76% of parents desire School Choice.

Houston Metro, parental choice, 79%,

Central Texas, 76%

West Texas, 71%

And if you’re in a 50/50 district, here’s the most key thing of all, if you’re in a 50/50 district, independent voters, overwhelmingly, 74% believe in parental choice.

Let’s give underserved children the same choice that every single member of this Texas House and Senate has. And I ask for you to reject this amendment.”

Then Rep. Huberty, of the Public Education Committee, spoke for the amendment:

“Members, we’ve had this discussion in this body for years about this. The reality of the situation is we have plenty of options of choice within our public schools. That’s just false narrative. We’ve had the ability to send, when we talk about special needs kids as an example, we have the ability to put them in private placement, we have the ability to let them do that. We’ve expanded the options for parents through the pandemic, of creating opportunities. We’re talking about virtual schools now. We talking about all these wonderful options that we have there. So I respectfully ask you to vote for the amendment.”

Rep. Herrero said in closing: “Join all the members that are here in support of this amendment (indicating the members standing behind him) and stand with our public school teachers and support this amendment. I move for the adoption.”

Rep. Biedermann raised a point of order against further consideration of Amendment 84 under Rule 8, Section 4, of the House Rules on the grounds that the amendment changes general law through an appropriations bill. The point of order was withdrawn.

A record vote requested by Rep. Toth.

Final vote tally:  115 Yeas to 29 Nays, 2 present but not voting.

The 29 Republican representatives who voted in favor of School Choice by voting against this amendment to defund any form of it were:

Biedermann, Bonnen, Cain, Capriglione, Cason, Craddick, Frank, Gates, Hefner, Hull, Jetton, Klick, Krause, Leach, Metcalf, Middleton, Murphy, Noble, Oliverson, Parker, Patterson, Paul, Sanford, Schafer, Shaheen, Swanson, Tinderholt, Toth, Wilson.

Statements of vote:

Button was out of the chamber, but would have voted “no.”

Leach said he was shown voting no, but intended to vote Yes.

Leman was shown voting Yes, but intended to vote No.

Metcalf was shown voting no, but intended to vote Yes.

Shaheen was shown voting No, but intended to vote Yes.

(So apparently statements of vote changes afterwards are documented in the journal, but the tally does not change. Their votes stay as recorded. I crossed through the names who indicated they meant to vote for the defund amendment.) All the representatives not named above voted for the defund amendment.

This was a back door move to eliminate any chance of any kind of School Choice getting through, because while activists attentively watch the progress of bills, which all had to be filed by March 12, no one outside the back offices of the Capitol could have seen this amendment coming, and it was only filed the day of the Budget vote. And the great majority of Republican Representatives and all the Democrats voted in favor.